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Ning social network site is going from freemium to paid-for

Ning's new chief executive has announced that the site is going to shed staff, stop its free service and concentrate on its premium users. But it isn't the first to fail at the freemium approach, and it won't be the last Ning, which is the provider of this social network site and which lets anyone set up their own social network service, is slashing staff numbers from 167 to 98 and changing its strategy.

Recently-appointed chief executive Jason Rosenthal sent staff a memo that said: "we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity" -- that being the premium service, not the one supported by advertising.  

"We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning," added Rosenthal.

Over its life, the service has received about $120m in venture capital backing, but does not appear to have made a profit.

Ning ("peace" in Chinese) has been well regarded partly because of its chairman, Marc Andreessen, who led the development of the Mosaic browser and co-founded Netscape to replace it (hence Mozilla, a Mosaic-killer). His co-founder and former CEO at Ning, Gina Bianchini, also made a name for herself.

In a video interview published at Vator.tv last month, Bianchini said the next-generation Ning would be launched this year, and that the company was hiring. She was also happy to talk about revenue streams. She said about 13% of the user base paid for some premium services, and Ning also made money from "virtual gifts". As an example, she mentioned "bloody chain saws" being sold on the Lost Zombies network.

But the day before that enthusiastic interview was published online, Andreessen announced that Bianchini had "decided to step down after five and a half years of hard and terrific work".

Ning had banked on its user base expanding virally, and in his announcement about Bianchini, Andreessen claimed that ""Ning today is one of the world's top social networking properties, with more than 2.3 million user-created Ning Networks and more than 45 million registered users, and is far and away the market leading social platform for interests and passions."

However, in Eyeballs still don't pay the bills, a blog post at 37Signals (the company behind Basecamp, Backpack, Campfire, Writeboard etc), David Hansson
said: "Ning's problem is not a lack of eyeballs but its inability to turn them into cash money to pay the bills. Getting more of something that's a net-negative is not going to make up for it."

"The just-give-it-away-for-free-and-they-will-come-and-we'll-be-rich automatron is as broken now as it was in 2001."

On Andreessen's numbers, millions of users could now be faced with paying for Ning's service or abandoning the networks that have taken them so much time and effort to build.

This is a useful reminder that no free online service is guaranteed to remain free, or even to survive. Indeed, it's a fair bet that at least 90% will, in the long term,
disappear. Those lured with the bait of cloud computing should bear this in mind and make sure they have complete backups of all their data, plus an exit strategy for when the worst happens.


Article written by Jack Schofield -  Source: www.guardian.co.uk/

Tags: Ning, premium

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Sorry for so much informations which are understandable for insider only maybe. After I started this network some guys here were motivated to start their own network. I remember tertium-auris.ning.com - singinghealing.ning.com - drumsandtabla.ning.com - didgeridoo.ning.com and these days jewsharp.ning.com.

To explain this thread with some less words: OMN started in July 2007 as overtones.ning.com - OMN is hosted on this provider which is mentioned above. On April 15th 2010 the actually new CEO of this provider called Ning decided a new strategy for this company. That's the main sentence: "We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning," - okay: OMN is a Premium network since 2008. I have to wait until the next announcement which will be published by the company on May 4th 2010 - at the moment I know nothing exactly how this new company strategy will affects the maintenance of Overtone Music Network. I see three options: Pay what they need. If I can't pay what they want to leave the provider and try to install this network on own server. If I can't do this alone the last options will be maybe to stop the experience OMN. But that's really my last option
Hello Jens,
Thank you for providing this important information in advance!
It may be understandable that Ning needs to demand a payment but it is just a little strange that they don't inform about the transition.
I hope you and we may find the best solution!
Best,
Skye
Dear Skye,

thanks a lot for your response and comment. It shows me that you have noticed my input.
The new CEO announced an announcement to announce that they will change the Terms of Service in May 4th. Ning will phase out the free service. - that 's for this moment all what I know and what we know. For me it was quite clear that nothing can be for free and using Ning as open social network provider is based on the fact that I am not a programmer and therefore I used the work by the excellent Ning Staff. Therefore I payed for premium services and today I renewed these premium services. Here is an overview of all Ning Premium Services until now:



I pay for using an own domain, remove create links and run your own ads (=run no ads.) - In the light of economic reality, nothing is free. Isn't it about time we suck it up as consumers and start paying for the bandwidth we use, from web hosting to online storage to site creation and maintenance? As we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. - I wish we all will find the best solution.

All the best,
Jens
Dear Jens -

You make some good points, often overlooked by other ning networkers - there is no such thing as free lunch.
I run two minor ning sites myself, and I think we run out of steam when we have to pay. But it's ok, for me it's a way of testing where the energy flows with force and freedom. Not in my networks :) - but this one is obviously filled with good energy and vibrations!

/knud
Dear Knut,

thanks a lot for your response and your sentence that this one is filled with good energy and vibrations. I have to accept that Ning will make a decision and will publish it on May 4th Good is that Ning provides a migration path for a network that you can install a Ning network on another Server. But I am not a fan of this kind of beginning Odysee - I checked all alternatives and found out that Ning's prices are fair and I hope they will be fair after May 4th too.

/jens
If I can't do this alone the last options will be maybe to stop the experience OMN. But that's really my last option

I mean: if I have to do this all alone without any other support, the last option will be that I have to switch this network into the offline modus. That's the ultimate option.

Dear Jens, you know I can't speak english and each message I read and every answer I write, I have to use online translator. Please excuse my slow response as well as errors of language. Thanks.

For personal reasons I moved away from this network and many other for months and did not come here. But you know I have always considered your network as a generator site of mental and psychic welfare.

All ning network creators are waiting for May 4, but meanwhile people are looking for alternatives in this discuss and I find very interesting the shared data sheet that is circulating there.

All people and in all languages, there is talk of many possible solutions. For example, in the group of spanish creators are talking about Drupal project in open source.

But it seems that this software, as well as Joomla, are not easy to handle. At least not as easy as creating a Ning network and certainly not for people who have a purpose other than for software.

At least I do not want to get into so many complications. I like to create themes (layouts) here at Ning, but it is not my main goal. My nets are for philosophy and politics (I am part of a silent majority who do not want the monarchy in Spain). So I guess people here on OMN, come to share music, not to be network programmers.

If people want a place that is already half designed to avoid having to do everything ourselves, and where we can create clusters, and other options are not elsewhere, I think it is normal to start to ask for a small fee to members here and all other networks that wish permancer the Ning platform. Every day I read the network creators and I can see that many have already put a Paypal button on their Nings.

But I understand that members are not responding here or on other networks (not in mine) we are all waiting to know the prices of Ning. If these prices allow me to pay 1 of my networks and collaborate in this, of course counting on me. There are many good hours I've spent here and it makes sense to work to maintain a site that makes me feel good.

Hugs.
Ayla.


Dearest Ayla,

thanks a lot for your response and thanks a lot for your feedback that you enjoy it to be a member of this network. Let me write you that I check daily what's happen on Ning, what 's new on the Blog Creators Forum. I am reading but I do not reply to any of these discussions on Creators. After May 4th Ning will gives us 10 weeks to accept the new conditions and the new prices. We can migrate our network if it needful to do that - or we can stay. But at this moment everything is quite unclear and there are some superactive writers on Creator who like to use their chance to promote their community software solutions. Some discussion are really not serious and not fair. I have thought about Drupal 2 years ago. MySpace is based on Drupal and and could be a fine solution. Joomla Community Builder - why not - or buddypress - yeah!!! There are so many systems and software solutions. I tested as well spruz and grou.ps and signed it up - but they are not stable enough and their design and handling is horrible. Dolphin seems to be a good choice maybe ...

But anyway - let us wait until May 4th when Mr. Jason Rosenthal will declares the upcoming company structure of Ning. It is time to re-think our common ressources. Hugs!
Yours Jens
Dear Jens:

Thanks for all your ongoing work on the OMN site. And sorry about the extra stress this must be causing. Anyway, could you please post an update as it's now June 6th and we are anxious to hear what is happening. Thanks!

Om . . .
Rain

P.S. If you will be forced to charge a fee in order to continue the OMN site then count me in!
Hey Rain,

I discussed this issue how to maintain OMN here with some members and I send a message about the new price systemon May 7th. Yes, now we have June 7th and i will send a new message to all members in three days. Until now I can't charge a fee in order to maintain this site because I have no collecting and control system integrated in the software of this site. In the next future I think I have to offer for all members a free basic membership and premium membership with all features. We are discussing details with the provider and I wish these upcoming changes will be fair and moderate for all members specially for those who are are member since 2007 and for those who supported this site with a donation.

I will send a message on June 10th but there is no reason to be anxious to hear what will happen.

All the best,
Jens

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